Archive for February, 2008

Throw Me the Statue at the Great American Music Hall

Scott Reitherman of Throw Me the Statue In their first return to the Bay since the Bimbo’s 365 show, Throw Me the Statue performed at the Great American Music Hall last night as part of the week-long city-wise Noise Pop event. Sharing the stage with Birdmonster and Stellastarr*, TMTS put on a very solid show, despite the absence of their rhythm guitar player. Taking the stage around 9, they started out with a very tripped out version of “Written In Heart Signs, Faintly.” While the album version of this song is very simple and melancholy, this new stage version has brought in other elements including a drum loop that amps up the energy, while still allowing an eerie feeling through Reitherman’s words and Goldman’s backup vocals. Following this, the crowd was applauding, but not sure what they were about to see. A good portion of the crowd had come for Stellastarr*, so this Throw Me the Statue stuff was new to them. And with that rendition, they weren’t quite sure what this band was going to be about.

They follow the opener up with obvious radio favorite, “Lolita.” This had the audience dancing as they played a tighter, more energetic version than can be found on the TakeAway shows. Goldman goes nuts on his xylophone-like instrument, and I question if he knows what notes he’s playing at that point. Reitherman has an interesting way of bringing his voice up towards the end of the chorus in the live versions of this song, varying the sound from the Moonbeams rendition. “A Mutinous Dream” comes next, and is pretty much spot on to the album version. Following this, they go into a very tight sounding version of “Take It or Leave It,” which I could see being one of two or three songs on the album that should be follow up singles to “Lolita.” The wall of noise portions of some of these songs really bring out the front man in Reitherman as it’s the moments where he seems least aware of the audience and most in tune with his music. “Young Sensualists” comes next with an amped up exuberance that really brings more life to the song than on the album version. The guitars drive a bit more here, and Scott’s vocals trail off nicely each time before the drums hammer in again. It’s a definite head nodder and this is the point where I look around and see a lot of people dancing.

It’s after this song that a person near me yells out, “Who are you?!” and I realize that they have yet to introduce themselves to the crowd. Before an answer can come out, the band is on to “This Is How We Kiss,” admittedly one of my least favorite songs on the album, probably due to the chorus. But it still has the makings of an indie favorite for others, so it’s really just my opinion that I’m not a fan. After this song, he says they’ve got two left and asks if the audience has any questions. Again the “Who are you?” question comes out and seeming to have forgotten to say it, he says, “oh, right, sorry, we’re Throw Me the Statue.” They play “Girlfriend’s Car” before finishing up with another one of my favorites, “About to Walk.” Again, Scott’s relaxed stage presence comes out at the end as he invites the audience over to the merchandise booth with, “hey, come hang out, let’s chat.”

After the show, it’s an interesting juxtaposition as Scott is approached by girls from the audience talking about how much they liked the set, old friends from high school giving him a hard time about various things, and his parents who seem happy just to see him doing so well, and of course, what parent wouldn’t be? Always nice to see the El Granada/San Mateo kid come home, and get a nice sized gig at the Great American. Here’s a short clip of the opening to “Lolita.” Please excuse the quality as I was hiding from security guards at the time.

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Quirky Singer-Songwriter Chicks

You know the ones – sweet voice with maybe a hint of defiance, lyrics that are playful but actually say something, girl-next-door approachability, quirky personality. Maybe this trend has been going on for some time and I’ve been oblivious, but I feel like recently there are a growing number of artists who fall into this category. They write their own music, find fans online, and forge ahead without the help of big record labels or shows like American Idol, doing the thing they love on their own terms. Personally, I don’t love all of their songs, but I respect what they are doing and how they are doing it.

Here are 5 examples (in no particular order):

Colbie Caillet
The Malibu, California native – whose Myspace profile catapulted her to fame primarily due to her hit song, “Bubbly” (which I think I remember hearing was the number one song used at weddings in 2007) – is the first one I noticed. Her mellifluous voice has a tiny bit of raspiness to it, which is something I’ve always dug in females singers. I’m sure her critics probably write her off as just another feel-good annoyingly saccharine pop artist, but I think she’s pretty solid.
::Official Website::

Sara Bareilles
Here is another Cali girl who I just realized that I went to college with. She sang in the kick-ass a cappella group, Awaken, there. Actually…now that I think about it, I remember her performing at our annual talent show, where another up-and-coming act, Kara’s Flowers (now Maroon 5) also showcased their skills once upon a time. The story behind Sara’s hit, “Love Song”: Her record label, Epic, requested that she write a marketable love song to which she responded defiantly with a song saying “I’m not gonna write you a love song cause you ask for it”. Ironically, it turns out to be…well, quite marketable. Then again, having it featured as the free download of the week on iTunes in June 2007 certainly didn’t hurt either. After that her first major album shot to #1. There is something intoxicating about her voice – that husky lower register and crystal clear tone when belting the high notes. If you watch her in the “Love Song” video, watch for my favorite parts: her confident key-banging piano-playing style, how she stares right into the camera boldy as if she’s saying “what?”, and that mischievous glimmer in her eye.
::Official Website::

Ingrid Michaelson
Best known for her songs on Grey’s Anatomy and One Tree Hill, as well as that Old Navy sweater song, “The Way I Am“, the New York native is an excellent example of another artist who self-produced her albums and found fame on the internet. Her sound is edgy but simple, her lyrics are honest and unapologetic, and even her look is quirky and just real.
::Official Website::

Lilly Allen
One of my favorites is this English singer-songwriter, another Myspace darling, but that might be because anyone who sings with an accent automatically gets a ton of street cred and extra stars in my book. Her hits, “Smile” and “LDN” are deceptively catchy and sweet tunes, but the lyrics give you a little insight into the girl and her somewhat rocky history.
::Official Website::

Regina Spektor
Another international import, Russian-born Regina Spektor is classically trained in piano and initially gained recognition in New York’s anti-folk scene, where “the music tends to sound raw or experimental, and generally mocks the seriousness and pretension of the established mainstream music scene and also mocks itself.” Her music is diverse, from the light girly sound of songs like “Fidelity” to her more edgy and whiny sound in “Us“.
::Official Website::

Throw Me the Statue Take Away Shows: Lolita/About to Walk

Odds are that if you noticed that I continue to pump Throw Me the Statue and longtime high school/MixMatchMusic friend Scott Reitherman of El Granada and Crystal Springs Uplands, you’ve probably come to the realization that I’m not going to stop now. As hinted at in “Take Me Away,” three Take-Away shows by TMTS and hosted by La Blogotheque were released yesterday. “Lolita,” the reigning choice for first single, “About to Walk,” and a Guided By Voices cover of “My Valuable Hunting Knife” were all released. I think the simplistic style worked both positively and negatively in these videos…it helped bring the persona of the band and the laid back attitude they carry to the masses, at the same time it’s a bit less polished in the performance. But what do you expect acoustically on a ferry crossing the Puget Sound? And they’ve all already blown up…close to 1,000 views of each video within 24 hours. Be on the lookout for Scott and TMTS at the Great American Music Hall next Thursday, the 28th, in San Francisco.


Privacy is Obsolete

We live in a society that is entirely public. Privacy is a thing of the past. (see the Anonymity Experiment) Advertisers and marketers know your shopping habits, your drug prescriptions, your political, religious, and professional sport affiliations. Facebook’s Beacon is only the scapegoat of what any advertiser is frothing at the mouth to implement. The clerks at your grocery store or the people that run the gas station or the car wash are just as likely to steal your credit card number and identity as a random hacker over the internet or some dude scavenging your bills out of your trash can. Anything that can be reproduced digitally will, inevitably and rapidly, end up being illegally distributed over the internet, either for profit, or just for fun.

So why are people still paranoid about privacy and piracy? Fear is only useful when it helps us prevent harm. What’s the point of being afraid of getting salmonella? I don’t need to be afraid of it anymore, I’m just careful around raw food. Loss of privacy is inevitable – you can not prevent it. All you can do is slow it down. I have my cell phone number on my Facebook profile. Yes, I limited my privacy settings so only my virtual “friends” can see it – but if I really didn’t want my cell phone number getting out, I wouldn’t be an IDIOT and put it on the internet. Honestly: how many of you really have a true expectation of privacy when you put any information on the internet? Why be afraid anymore? If you want it private, keep it in your head – nothing else is private. Deal with it.

I’ve talked to a lot of musicians lately, and a lot of them are concerned about their music being pirated. My immediate reaction is always, why? Things are only stolen because they have value. If somebody is stealing your music, it’s because they want it – you don’t suck. That’s wonderful! People want your art! Why would you want to limit your audience? Share the beauty that humans produce with humanity – privacy is selfish.

Let’s say some local aspiring rapper steals your beat and uses it as a hook in his rap song. Maybe a thousand people hear it – maybe it’s only a mediocre song. Perhaps he earned a few hundred bucks from it. Sure, you should be owed some percentage, since he used your intellectual property. But do you really care about (likely no more than) $50 from some local nobody artist? Get a day job if you need $50. However, let’s say some artist steals your beat, and his song turns into the next “Soulja Boy.” Now he’s got millions – and here’s where you might be thinking, “See? He stole my music and now I lost out on all that revenue!”

Our society may be public, but we’re also litigious to a ridiculous extreme. If you can prove that it’s your music – for example, by widely distributing it for free through a medium that can vouch for you – then you’ll win the case, and that rich thief will settle out of court with you for a tidy sum. If you’re crafty enough, you’ll get him to publicly credit you. All of a sudden, you’re rich and famous, because somebody else stole your music. When Kanye and Timbaland come knocking at your door to sample some more of your beats, don’t forget to thank internet piracy.

Take Me Away

One of the most satisfying (or least, depending on who and when you ask) aspect of listening to an artist is discovering how that artist sounds live in concert. The instrumentation, the lighting, the changes in the songs all brought out for live performances can usually significantly change the experience. But concert tickets are expensive, bands tour, but usually in limited locations and venues (or for folks living in places like Idaho, maybe never and nowhere), and even in an amphitheater, there’s a certain feeling of disconnect from the band. In conjunction with this is the fact that it usually takes some sort of “unplugged” event to get an artist who would normally not be, to go acoustic. Mathieu Saura, a 27 year old from Paris who goes by the name Vincent Moon, has found the solution.

Fueled by passion for music and cinema, Saura launched Take-Away shows in 2006. A collection of now over 80 music videos, created by musicians, featuring them playing a song in a stripped down, improvised version as they walk through public places and streets, the Takeaway shows are now experiencing a wealth of attention from the media, including CNN. Saura has managed to mix the music video form with the internationalist appeal of music to bring artists from all over the world and all different musical styles together. These impromptu videos, taken usually around the band’s hometown or in the streets of Paris, offer a very real and low-tech look at a variety of artists, and provide a very different backdrop for the songs usually associated with CDs and radio airplay.

Furthermore, Saura doesn’t feel the need to upgrade to a high-tech feel because of the equipment initially available on the launch of the venture, and his desire to keep the product consistent and authentic. The variety of artists is astounding, featuring Arcade Fire, my long time favorite Elysian Fields, and previous Evolving Music blog subjects Beirut (“Beirut. The City. The Game. The Band.” 10/8/07), Vampire Weekend (“When Vampire Strikes,” 2/8/08) and, so we’re told through the grapevine, soon to be included is Crystal Springs Uplands alum Scott Reitherman and Throw Me the Statue (“Throw Me That Home Coming,” 11/8/07) in honor of their re-released Moonbeams album from Secretly Canadian

Whether you’re looking for some new music, or just a new way to look at music you know, the Take-away shows offer you a chance to see both artists you love and artists you’ve never heard of in new acoustic and public ways. The personal and intimate feeling these videos elicit, combined with the diversity and travelogue aspect of the settings creates a musical experience with the power to transport the listener to places further than the radio singles ever could. And all of it, from the blogs, to the emerging artists, to the new interpretations and portrayals of music, falls perfectly into the growing universe that is MixMatchMusic.

Guitar Rising: Guitar Hero Minus the Plastic Toy

Holy Crap. Put this on your wish list for Christmas.

If you’ve ever played Guitar Hero before, you’ve probably wondered – like others have – if using a real guitar would be possible. As it turns out, not only is it possible, but the game will also teach you how to play.

Guitar Rising, which won the Developer’s Choice Award at the Independent Game Conference, was developed by Game Tank, a San Francisco studio which is all about “games that enable players to acquire real-world skills while being thoroughly entertained”.

Coming to a store near you in late ’08.

Pot of Gold

The mash-up world, following the release and enormous publicity of Danger Mouse‘s Grey Album, has erupted. Following the illegal mixing and matching of Jay-Z and The Beatles, artists coming together to mash has blossomed into a full industry. Jay-Z was one of the first to take advantage on a massive scale when he collaborated with Linkin Park for Collision Course. Now both the underground and commercial aspects of mash-ups have grown, and this new sub genre has invited a host of interesting questions regarding rights and distribution where two artists are involved. What makes the questions more interesting is, as in the case of Danger Mouse, when an artist goes out on their own to mash others’ music. But what happens when the remixed music is free, and started out free? Somehow, it seems lately that whenever we write about distribution rights, marketing and new music models, Radiohead is omnipresent. This time, it wasn’t Danger Mouse, and it wasn’t using a collection of songs as heavily protected as the Beatles’ library.

A few months ago, we talked about Radiohead releasing their newest album online in a “pay what you will” format. The discussions have been endless in terms of what this new model means for the record industry. The limits of Radiohead’s generosity were tested recently when AmpLive, who most will know from his amazing work as one half of the Zion I duo out of Oakland, came out with a new mash-up. AmpLive, after listening to In Rainbows, decided that he had to have a crack at re-mixing the tracks and adding hip-hop artists like Charli 2na and Del of Hieroglyphics over Thom Yorke‘s lyrics. He started offering these mixes up under the title Rainydayz Remixes, and sure enough, Radiohead’s major distributer, Warner, sent a cease and desist for unauthorized mixes.

That’s when Radiohead, their take on the music industry and distribution rights, and their sensibilities as musicians stepped in to the discussion. Never one to do what the labels tell them, Radiohead has now sanctioned AmpLive’s remixes, allowing him to distribute them as long as they are free (which was his intention initially), and apparently giving the musician stamp of approval to a mash-up album that carries Radiohead’s distinctive sound while taking the music of the band into previously uncharted hip-hop territory. After four listens through the album last night, there’s little wonder that it got the band’s stamp of approval…it’s phenomenal, unexpected, and a fantastic companion piece to the original.

Clocking in at a sparse 8 tracks and 25 minutes, what Rainydayz lacks in length it makes up for in depth. Following the 30 second intro, the remaining 7 songs are a lush assortment of sounds and moods. “Videotapez” is a slick chop of “Video Tape,” with a solid hip-hop beat and an original Del verse. Amp uses the piano portion of the song as the loop, and Thom Yorke’s scratched lyrics provide the chorus. “Nudez” takes on “Nude,” using the airy vocals of the original and lacing them over a thumping bass line. The song takes on an original chorus and provides a Too Short verse before transitioning into a more laid back beat with Yorke on the fade out.

“Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” gets redone here as “Weird Fishez.” Amp doesn’t repeat the fast paced drums of the original, and the song is all the better for it. The beat rolls along with hand claps and an almost jazzy xylophone type sound with electronic glitches. The use of Yorke on this one is more as accent, as all of the clips are jittery and short. He doesn’t use any extended lyrics from this one, and the clips he does use trail off nicely. Towards the end of the song, Amp goes frenetic with the drums before bringing the beat back. “All I Need” brings a more trippy underground dub feel to the original with nicely interspersed horns. The chorus is brought out in a synthesized loop, and the end result is reminiscent of a Massive Attack song. This song is fantastic as it demonstrates the true versatility of Amp. While the majority of his music is rooted in hip-hop, part of what has made Zion I so successful is his constantly changing and incredibly diverse production. Here he shows that off to great effect.

On “15 Stepz,” Amp starts the song with a heavy electric guitar that leads you to believe we’re going to get a Collision Course-esque mash-up, but then a relaxed and groovy beat comes in and Codany Holiday offers up a soulful interpretation of the original lyrics. Part funk, part lounge, this song is perhaps the best example on the album of Amp weaving together his interpretation with the original material. He slows down the glitch tempo of the original and combines it with a great beat of his own. It’s excellent to hear the Radiohead lyrics re-interpreted here. The style of Radiohead is so unique, and Yorke’s voice so distinct that this soulful take on it comes across wonderfully. Holiday doesn’t get caught up trying to emulate, he merely takes the words and gets down to business

“Reckonerz” starts with the start and stop style found in a few songs on True and Livin’ before bringing in the deep and unmistakable flow of Charli 2na. The chorus is completely original, and the verse is backed by eerie samples from the source material “Reckoner.” 2na blasts through the verse in his signature style, making this perhaps the most radio ready track of the 7. The album finishes with “Faustz” which sounds more like it’s original, “Faust Arp,” than any other track here. Amp keeps the main guitar part virtually intact while looping and scratching the original lyrics on top. The head nodding hip-hop over the top sounds right at home, and the stop and go segment sounds like a DJ swapping drum beats between turntables.

If there’s one downfall to this album it’s that it’s under a half hour long. If there’s two, the second is that AmpLive doesn’t tackle the other songs on the album. “Bodysnatchers,” “House of Cards” and “Jigsaw Falling Into Place,” are neglected here. But these are minor points. The creation of the album, free internet distribution, and subsequent Radiohead backing make this album another step in the journey to a revolutionized music industry, and a triumphant addition to the growing collection of mash-ups.


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